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If you’re an introvert then networking is an activity that is no doubt right at the bottom of your to-do list. In fact it’s probably sitting there in between public speaking and cleaning out your closet.
For the predominantly shy, interacting with others in order to gain contacts who can further your career is nerve wracking to say the least.
But with the best gigs advertised by word of mouth, an estimated 70% of them, that’s a lot of missed opportunity. Networking will increase your chances of accessing the hidden job market if you can figure out how to do it in a way that works for you.
The following tips are designed to ease the pain of networking for introverts, and help bring you closer to the job, or client, of your dreams.
1. You can network online
The digital age means you can bypass talking to complete strangers at a networking event or meetup. Something that introverts gladly avoid if they can. However, you can still network successfully and build connections online with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Although your relationships will be stronger and more genuine if you meet people in person, online networking still works. It’s just a less intense way of interacting, and on a level that you may feel comfortable with.
2. One-on-One networking
Introverts often shine in one-on-one meetings, and prefer these scenarios rather than large group networking events. Suggesting a chat over coffee is a great way to make a solid connection with a person in your preferred industry or job.
Keep the meeting short (under an hour) and be sure to have business cards on hand or other collateral so you can stay top of mind and schedule a follow-up if needed.
3. Follow up to say thanks
If you’ve been given a business card at a one-on-one meeting, resist the temptation to simply set it aside. It’s important to send a follow up email afterwards to say thank you, reiterate your contact info and ensure that you’re officially in their email contacts. This is polite, as the person has taken time out of their day, but it also makes the meeting more personalized and increases your chances of success.
It doesn’t have to be long-winded. A simple ‘Thanks for meeting with me today I appreciated it’ is sufficient. Also send them an invite to connect on LinkedIn, as most people won’t have a problem with this if they’ve met someone in person.
With networking, sometimes it’s not the meeting people that’s difficult, it’s following up and keeping in touch that’s the hard part!
4. Take a friend along
If you want to go to a networking event but dread the thought of going alone, why not take a friend? A friend or a colleague can act as a buffer so you have at least one person to talk to. If your friend is an extrovert then chances are, they will happily chat to nearby strangers. This gives you an opening so you can get to know people in a safe way outside of your comfort zone.
5. Reach out to old contacts
Networking isn’t all about adding new contacts to your list, it’s about keeping in touch with old ones too. So make sure you schedule coffee dates with previous co-workers or clients for a catch up. This helps to keep you on their radar, plus they may be good for references if you ever need one.
Be prepared that the conversation might actually swing the other way. Old contacts might be on the lookout for your help for work or a connection. But don’t dismiss their enquiries out of hand. Networking is actually more about giving than receiving. By helping people in your network, rather than just taking from them, the energy you give out will eventually be returned to you.
6. Listening is OK
Extroverts love being the center of attention, but talking too much about yourself isn’t always the best way to network. It’s ok to be reserved and just listen to others too. Besides, asking someone questions is a good way to learn information about what they do, what they’re working on and what they’re interested in. There’s always room to practice being a better active listener!
Overall, if you are attending a networking event it’s important to smile, look engaged and be yourself, even if you feel like running off into the corner. While extroverts may seem to have the advantage when it comes to networking, as you can see there are lots of ways introverts can start a conversation too.
If you’re interested in more information about how to make networking work for you, check out this article for further tips and tricks.
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